We loved the mountainous landscape that seems to sweep across all of northern Laos. Endless scenes of hundreds of shades of green and countless opportunities to breath in fresh mountain air…how could you not like it?!? There were several big highlights to our time in Laos and definitely some photographs that we want to print and hang up in our house (when we have one).
1. Delicious street vendor food. We would have been totally fine with only eating sandwiches and pancakes/crepes for $1.50. Not only were they so good, but you could get almost any flavour combination of sandwiches and crepes imaginable. Including Nutella cheese… We also ate a street food “buffet” while in Luang Prabang, which was well worth it.
2. Incredible scenery. Biking 32km on city pedal bikes with one standard gear was worth it for the gorgeous methanol blue Kuang Si Waterfall in Luang Prabang. Three hours in a tube floating down the Nam Song River in Vang Vieng gazing at the mountains around us was three hours well spent. And trekking 6km through the jungle to watch both the sunrise and sunset from the top of Tai Lue Mountain in Nam Ha Protected Area just outside of Luang Namtha is something we would both do again in a heartbeat.
3. Volunteering. We visited Big Brother Mouse in Luang Prabang and spent time with locals helping them practice speaking English. It was an incredible opportunity to learn all about Laotian life and at the same time, help the locals learn new English words (how to pronounce them, what they mean, how to spell them and how to use them in a sentence (words like slideshow, cement, raspberry, position and rhinoceros)). The Laotians are so eager to improve their English speaking skills and are so committed to learning. It really made us appreciate having English as our first language. There have been times in our trip that we feel embarrassed that we only speak one language but a Romanian traveler we met made a really good point about English. He said “there has to be one language that’s universal and it’s basically English so be glad that its your first language!” We now recognize that we are so fortunate to be fluent in English and we want to share our fortune with others whenever we can.
4. Meeting other travellers. We have had casual conversations with many different travellers since we started our trip and we have traded contact information with people from Toronto, Montreal, Holland, Ireland and the U.K. In Luang Namtha we went on an overnight trek with a couple from The U.K. and another couple from Germany and became fast friends. We quickly moved past trading basic travelling details (how long are you traveling, where all have you been, ant highlights to share, etc.) and taught each other different card games, talked about the differences in ways of living in each of our counties (relationships and student loans), discussed different words used to describe the same thing in each of our countries (jumper=hoodie, queue=line, trainers=running shoes, french fries=crisps, and various phrases that I’ll refrain from mentioning), encouraged each other to eat frog, enjoyed an early morning cup of coffee in a bamboo stalk cup, and best of all, shared a ton of laughs. When you’re away from your family and friends for so long it makes these kinds of connections so much more meaningful. Joe and Georgia, and Jan and Anya, we hope to show you around Canada one day!
We only visited three towns in Laos, Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng and Luang Namtha, before moving on to Thailand. Like I said, we loved the scenery that Laos offered but we did move through it pretty quickly and we had a few reasons for doing so:
1. We flew from Hanoi, Vietnam into Luang Prabang, which is a town right in the middle of Laos. Not smart…not sure why we didn’t think to fly to one end of the country and work our way up or down but we didn’t. To avoid countless hours on buses backtracking just so we could see both the north and south of the country we chose to keep to the north. Mostly because we wanted to be close to the northern Thai border to go to Chiang Mia, Thailand and also because we heard from numerous travellers that the south of Laos didn’t have as much to offer.
2. None of the towns themselves had much to offer that interested us. Once we toured around the countrysides capturing endless photographs of the gorgeous sights and toured the markets and any temples the towns had there wasn’t much to do. Plus Laos has weird curfew rules so many places are closed by 11:30pm if not earlier.
3. Timing. By the time we’ve finished traveling through SE Asia we hope to have visited seven different countries. Plain and simple, keeping our visit to Laos short ensures that we are able to do that.
Despite our short visit to Laos we definitely recommend that people going to SE Asia take time to visit Laos. As you can see from our pictures, you won’t be disappointed!